Russian rights activist hopes Pussy Riot conviction will be repealed

The conviction of all-female punk group Pussy Riot performers will become an example of a judicial error, the chairman of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov, told Interfax on Tuesday.

"It will subsequently be viewed as an example of a judicial error, which I hope will be corrected rapidly by the Moscow City Court," he said.

Most council members think that the girls from Pussy Riot were punished too harshly by Moscow's Khamovnichesky Court for their so-called "punk prayer" at the Cathedral of the Christ the Savior, Fedotov said. "It is not a criminal offence. Rather, it is an administrative one. If motives of religious hatred are absent, there is no hooliganism from the point of view of penal law," he said. "The "blasphemy" article existed in our legislation in the 19th century. From 1845 to 1885, it carried a prison sentence from three to eight months, but not two years. This sentence looks quite weird even from the point of view of the 19th century," he added.

"I would like to draw everyone's attention to discrepancies between the court's assessment and the assessment given by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev before the conviction. The prime minister said that the punk group's members received what they looked for - popularity. It is Herostratus-style popularity, but still popularity. But the Khamovnichesky Court thinks that they did not seek popularity but were motivated by religious hatred. The position expressed by Dmitry Medvedev seems well justified to me, but I have serious doubts over the court's approach," Fedotov said. "The council will announce its stance on this case in a specialized document within the next few days," he said.

Masked members of the Pussy Riot punk band staged an anti-Putin performance at the Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21, 2012. The action triggered a broad public response and three female singers were detained on hooliganism charges.

The Khamovnichesky District Court in Moscow sentenced the three Pussy Riot girls to two years in a penal colony on August 17, 2012.

Human rights defenders said that the biggest punishment the singers deserved was an administrative penalty for petty hooliganism. Amnesty International declared them prisoners of conscience.

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